Okay, I’m asked this a lot. SO here’s how I hack the out of focus backgrounds in my illustration. Spoiler alert: my backgrounds are actually pretty ugly all on their lonesome! But in compositions, they’re just enough to sell an illusion of knowing how to paint an actual environment. (example 1 2 and 3 for posterity)
Step 1) I find some references for what ever setting I want to paint (mega important to me for city stuff because architecture), I find a photo with colors I like, I grab colors from that photo, and block out my shapes! I generally don’t fret too much with perspective, because I’m a hack and most of the time it doesn’t matter. When it does matter, that’s a different story. So…know how to perspective because it’s gonna matter sooner than it won’t (it should matter right now, with this little demo but..naaah).
2) I gaussian blur the shit out of it. Gaussian blur is a filter found under filters->blur->gaussian blur. Make it count.
3) I add more sloppy details on a layer over top, and then, I palette knife the hell out of it. Again, palette knife is a filter found in filters->artistic->palette knife (Skyward sword used the pallatte knife in their in-game textures. Unfortunately, they literally just left it at that, ha ha ha.)
4) I gaussian blur the shit out of that.
5) I lost some details I wanted, so I add them back in…only closer to the foreground though. Doing so in the back will really mess with the depth of field illusion.
6) I gaussian blur even that (to a milder extent).
7) At this point I generally decide I hate the colors, and I apply overlay gradients on an overlay layer to get colors more to my taste. Sometimes, I’ll play with levels to gain more contrast.
And that’s it! I’ve hacked myself a background.
This isn’t a tutorial. Learning to actually draw and paint will help. A lot.